A new contemporary artist has joined Sarasota’s diverse and vibrant art scene. Canadian painter and sculptor Viktor Mitic moved to Siesta Key, just north of the village, about a year and a half ago and now spends his time working in his tropical beachside studio, where he can enjoy the views of his very own ‘Sculpture Studio Garden’—a museum-like backyard. Viktor Mitic was born in Yugoslavia but has spent most of his life living and working in the Toronto area. After discovering the local arts community over ten years ago, the father of two teenagers fell in love with the Sarasota area and eventually moved his family here from Toronto.

Once called “controversial,” Mitic is known for using art as a means to influence audiences and provoke discussion. Working with upcycled materials, which Mitic says is just another word for everyday objects that folks don’t want anymore, he creates work that gets people talking. Some of his more controversial pieces on famous people who were killed as victims of gun violence, like John F. Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi and John Lennon, have brought Mitic to celebrity status in the art world. 

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

The artist starts every day by looking at all the news he can get. “I go from Canadian to American to European to Asian news just to see what's going on in the day. That's with my breakfast and coffee,” he shares. “And, I am totally against gun violence. I’m not an activist or anything like that but violence is something that I’m absolutely against.” Hence the creation of Mitic’s entire body of bullet-ridden artwork created on canvas.  In 2007, Mitic saw some videos on YouTube showing a group of soldiers that were shooting up religious icons–paintings and sculptures—which he found to be unsettling.

“Art was a target then and still is,” he says “so I tried replicating that into a piece that would spark a conversation. I wanted to have a painting that would be descriptive, and have value in terms of color composition. And at the same time, I added this little unnerving detail to it. So the painting actually looks like a connect-the-dots game. Interesting play of forms but then if you find out an actual weapon was fired to create it, you start thinking about it a bit more.” Mitic tried to keep the project’s message of art combined with violence secret for a number of years, but then word got out. 

“I didn't want to make it a focal point,” he says. “I didn't want that to be the entire conversation when it comes to art because for me it's not–it is an art form. I use the weapons to create. At the same time, there's this fight. I'm creating and destroying the painting at the same time. And I'm trying to make something that is aesthetically pleasing. But it's gonna get a message out. So you'll be the judge.” 

Bullet Holes, gold leaf, acrylic on canvas, 2022.

In 2015, Mitic started using repurposed metal to build structures that would be hung in space. Those structures are based on photographs of paint splashes and paint marks he found on his studio floor and walls. He brought the photos into the computer, using 3D programs to give them volume. The computerized art was used to simplify the process of making them out of aluminum at first and then as time progressed and more collectors were coming to support his work, he slowly transitioned into incorporating stainless steel, 24K gold elements and bronze.

Today, Mitic continues his commitment to generate interest and conversation via art. One current project, which he has named, XOX (like Tic Tac Toe), is based on a shadow he saw on the wall while having his morning coffee. Thinking it looked like a face, he photographed it and drew the eyes, the mouth and a hat. “For five years I've been working on developing the rest of the body, and most of that work was done right here, over the last year and a half,” he says. “It was just a two-dimensional flat drawing that didn't have legs or arms and I knew I wanted the character to have a backpack or jetpack. I then started developing the whole story. It’s become a short sci-fi-based tale about a being that was created out of crystal-like structures on a world whose core is dotted with black holes that power that same world.”  A local myth that Mitic heard about crystals in the Bay that steer away hurricanes made him think the piece would be a nice connection to Sarasota. He then developed first a 3-D clay prototype of the head and kept it in the freezer to prevent it from drying out. Mitic is now working on a 20-foot, stainless steel version of XOX that will eventually be painted a very bright yellow. While this one is not meant to cause any controversy, he is certain that the size and dominance will certainly have a compelling presence.

Mitic’s work has been featured in galleries worldwide and now, right here in his own backyard. While the sculpture garden is not currently open to the general public, Mitic is operating on an ‘appointments only’ policy for visitors who are seriously viewing, considering and interested as collectors of art. In addition, Mitic is working on some time-sensitive work, which he plans to announce publicly once the sculptures are ready for full public access, viewing and acquisition. The target date for this announcement is this November.